Resilience

The Reset Podcast

Sometimes, when you put what you want into the universe your wish is returned to you effortlessly.

Other times, you write down an intention, email fifty people about the possibility of being on their podcast, and hear back from no one.

And other times, you attend a class where the instructor graciously invites all attendees to sign up for a slot to be interviewed on his podcast.

Effortless? Not exactly. But the universe did send me Franklin’s way.

And I’m pleased to share this episode of “The Reset Podcast” hosted by Franklin Taggart. Thank you for lovely conversation about resilience, faith, and the pursuit of beautiful things.

Click to watch the interview here.

 

And if you know of anyone else looking for podcast guests, I’m interested in sharing my story and my belief that hope can be found in the pursuit of beautiful things.

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Grief Cookies – A Story of Resilience

I just turned it over onto the cutting board. The banana bread, that is, as my pinky fingers flexed to hold the hot glass bread pan over the corner. It bounced out of the pan. Success. No oozing. No repeat experience like this one. I am learning to follow the instructions and actually leave the gooey batter in the oven for the full time that the recipe calls for. It usually works, if you follow the directions.

I think that’s why I like baking. You take flour – yum – sugar – double yum – and butter -yes please – and can blend them into all kinds of beautiful things. Add the essence of cocoa, a bit of fruit, chunks of chocolate and the results get even better. I can follow a recipe and mix and blend and whisk and the outcome is usually pretty tasty. Sure, sometimes an extra bit of baking soda gets in, but that just adds fluff to the cookie. Fluff, cushion, softness, chew. A beautiful thing.

I wish there was a recipe for grief.

Er no, ha, not a recipe. All that requires is loss of something big or small.

I wish there was something like a baking manual for grief. A set of instructions that tell me to do this or that and put your emotions and anger, newly complicated family relationships, and friends who don’t “get you” anymore in an oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes and ding, you’re done. You’re free from this drastic change and ready to be enjoyed.

No such thing.

This week Dylan has been sick so I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied in the evenings as he rests on the couch. On Tuesday, after watching The Crown (we have to pace ourselves people. There’s only eight more episodes in Season Two!) I wanted to bake. I went searching in my pile of Cooking Light magazines. I had a specific one in mind.  I started with the March 2016 edition. No, that couldn’t be right. The April edition would have arrived by then.

Cooking Light April 2016.

I inhaled sharply.

That magazine sat on my counter top as I cooked the last meal my dad would ever eat. Its open pages got speckled with oil as we prepared the main meal. I had tagged the corner, folding the fragile paper over as I was waiting to make the cookies after they went home for the evening. On March 17, 2016 I made these cookies and they turned out perfectly. And then, the morning of March 18, 2016, my dad died.

I ate these cookies the morning of his funeral for breakfast. I chewed absent-mindedly on the chocolate chunks and sea salt as I stared out the window from our kitchen, moving my foot against my calves as my black tights bothered my legs. Then someone told me it was time to go.

Later, in the evening, I offered the cookies to my cousins who were visiting from out of town. They reached into the jar, fingering the morsels, looking at me cautiously as they took a bite.

Weeks later I put that magazine back in the pile and ignored it. For almost two years. It took that long for me to be able to flip through the pages and find the recipe. Tuesday night I texted my mom for support, got out my white mixing bowl and I baked.

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I mixed flour and sugar and honey and butter and chocolate. I rolled the dough into tiny little balls. Smooshed salt into them with my fingers. I waited while chemistry worked its magic in the oven. And after the cookies cooled, I sat on the kitchen floor and ate one. Or two. Ok, yes, two. Then I packed up a tupperware full of them and sent them to work with Dylan.

Grief cookies.

Bummer there is no set of instructions for getting over grief. Maybe I never will. But I will continue to get back my strength, choose resilience, and bake. The gift of beautiful baked goods lightens others hearts. Extra baking soda effervesces and softens mine.

 

 

Hospital Room Drama

I was in a coffee shop recently and I overheard a group of women my age talking about tv shows.

“You know what they should let die?” spat one of the women. “Grey’s Anatomy.”

All her friends nodded along, offering better replacements of shows like Scandal, House of Cards, or Game of Thrones.

I can’t handle watching suspenseful tv. I think the world is too icky in real life to watch trauma unfold on screen. Affairs, politics, sex, incest, murder set in the White House or in fantasy worlds just doesn’t sit well with me.

Let me also mention that comedians and actors across many platforms keep joking about how even the writers of House of Cards could not make up the story lines unfolding in our current White House. It’s a crazy, uncertain world out there.

Though if you switch out the Oval Office and drop the scene in an operating room I may consider the suspense just for a moment. I like hospital room dramas.

Ok…. I’ll admit it. I still LOVE Grey’s Anatomy

This show is kinda like the annoying neighbor you grew up with who lived down the street. Its ever-present story line has become background to my life, showing up once a week with really absurd knick knacks for me to examine.

You want the neighbor to be gone but you keep answering the door when they knock, just to see what oddities or treasure they might offer this week.

Even if the neighbor keeps knocking for 13 years.

If you have abandoned this series long ago, forgive my passion. You may want to skip ahead to the photo below, but I’ve still got love to express. TV producers stopped Gilmore Girls and that revival is over, so Grey’s continues to be the show with which I grow.

I’m not ready to let this show die – even though all of my favorite characters have been killed off. There have been so many crises and trauma that all of those surgeons should be in therapy.

I watched the season thirteen finale last night *spoiler alert, spoiler alert* and in an hour episode there was a rapist, an explosion, a fire, a missing girl, a soldier missing for ten years. Choking babies, bleeding arteries, divorce and firings.

I squirmed on the couch as the level of suspense escalated to a level of unbelievable discomfort.  I thought of this blog post that my dear friend wrote on fear.  Her words kept ringing through my ears and I sat watching threat after threat play out at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.  Jenny writes,

“Many of my fears involve unfamiliar situations I’d be terrified to encounter — assault, debt, sickness. Just knowing these things can happen stresses me out.

I’m not unique in this. As a world, we have greater visibility of fear inducing events than ever before. Videos of disease, genocide, famine, and terrorist attacks are just a click away. It’s natural that we begin to fear things we see affecting others.”

So why, I keep asking myself, do we want to watch these risks, scandals, crises, terrors for entertainment? How much crazy can we absorb – how deeply do we let the immense potential for loss seep into our awareness? Or are we purely being entertained by horror?

Resilience. That’s why.

The world can be scary, threats to our safety, our security, our families, our lifestyles lurk. Sometimes I ask Dylan why we should ever leave our house.

Then I remind myself, “Katie, your dad died at home.” No place is free of vulnerability.

When we keep focusing on the potential for loss, on the threats, on the prevention of pain we miss out on living. Face the fear, choose to live anyway.

All of the surgeons on this show have faced tremendous, outrageous amounts of loss. Body parts and spouses and jail time and positions of power. Mothers and written words and friendship and brain capacity – these themes and tangible absences tangle with real life situations that many of us don’t want to face.

But Shonda Rhimes keeps writing in the necessary themes of resilience – the power of facing our emotions connected to the human experience. She writes in threads of healing, and humor, and love and reminds me, at the very least, that it is an amazing thing to be alive.

On Thursday, even before I sat down for a three hour tv binge, I found an older bottle of champagne that someone had given us when we moved into our house almost two years ago. It was dusty and tucked in the back corner of our liquor cabinet. I was saving it for something special. As if purchasing a home for the first time wasn’t special.

For whatever reason when I got home that evening I pulled the bottle out, wiped off the dust, and stuck it in the freezer to chill. I took down two delicate champagne flutes that we have never used.

When my husband got home from work, I asked him to pop open the sparkling wine. I poured the sticky liquid into our glasses and plopped in a few raspberries in for good measure.

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We toasted to being alive. To Thursdays. To the ordinary. To resilience. To bubbles and fruit and each other.

When all those threats lurk around us, in the news, on tv, in our neighborhoods, we have to choose to celebrate the beautiful thing it is to just simply be breathing. Life is special just cause it’s life.

Shonda Rhimes gets that. I’m working on learning it too.